Loren Coleman on the History of the International Cryptozoology Museum.
In August 2003, I brought a lifelong dream to life. I wished to share the many items I had collected during the last half of the 20th century with researchers, scholars, colleagues, and the general public.
I had traveled far and wide ~ through passion and patience ~ to interview eyewitnesses, chronicle the reports, and gather material evidence and cultural artifacts related to cryptozoology. Here I am in Willow Creek, California, 1975.
Finally in 2003, I founded and opened the International Cryptozoology Museum in the entire first floor of a house I bought specifically to hold the collection and my family elsewhere, in Portland, Maine. The site was soon visited by a long line of filmmakers, reporters, and a beginning trickle of interested individuals, usually cryptozoologists and authors.
The first item collected for the future museum, from 1960, used on the World Book’s Snowman Expedition to the Himalaya, lead by Edmund Hillary and Marlin Perkins.
The museum modestly began with sculptures and paintings created just for it, hundreds of cryptozoology toys and souvenirs from around the world, and one-of-a-kind artifacts.
These included a life-size, 8 feet tall Bigfoot representation, a full-scale, six-foot-long thousand dollar coelacanth model, 100 Bigfoot, Yeti, Yowie, and other footcasts, fakes like jackalopes, Feejee Mermaid & furred trout.
Additionally displayed were Hollywood cryptid-related props as The Mothman Prophecies’ Point Pleasant “police” outfit, the movie P. T. Barnum’s authentic 3.5 feet tall Feejee Mermaid, the TV series Freakylinks’ 22 foot wide “Thunderbird,” and some of Magnolia’s falling frogs. Special art and sculpture creations by some of the leading cryptozoological artists in the world were featured.
Mokele-mbembe hunter Scott Norman (right) visits the ICM in its first location, during the October before Scott’s sudden and tragic death.
In March 2006, the Museum’s future Assistant Director Jeff Meuse visited, and he became a cornerstone to the future success of the ICM. Other friendships and associations began during the early days of the Museum, including Michelle Souliere’s trip to the museum.
The space in my home was being overgrown by the museum. It was time to move.
Finally, in 2009, after noting to associates in Portland that I wanted to move the Museum to a more central location, I was offered space in the back of Michelle Souliere’s future new bookstore, The Green Hand. Due to tireless efforts of Jeff Meuse and other volunteers, and contributions from scores of people across the world, we made the move. The final fiscal support came from a generous donation from an individual representing the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club.
The International Cryptozoology Museum, officially registered with the town clerk, had a Grand Opening in the Outer Art District, and opened with the help of Michelle, Jeff, Caleb, and a long list of others, on November 1, 2009. Over 80 visitors came that first day, as far away as from Boston and Baltimore. A ribbon cutting Opening was attended a few days later by over 200 people.
Although we had a three-year lease with Michelle, it soon became clear that the one room, 500 square feet, was too small. Due to the fact Michelle’s husband wanted to utilize the location, we were able to move to a larger venue, six times as large, right around the corner, at 11 Avon Street, Portland, Maine.
We opened again on October 31, 2011, and had in the meantime, became a nonprofit corporation in the State of Maine.
Our Grand (Re)Opening in 2011 hosted almost 400 visitors.
The future holds more surprises. Stay tuned.